Parkrun trains volunteers to assist visually impaired
Making exercise accessible to all is the aim of a new initiative which is being promoted by Johnstown Parkrun and the National Council for the Blind.
The Johnstown event is currently being held at Wexford Racecourse due to construction work at Johnstown Castle and, recently, a free training programme was offered to visual guides and Parkrun's volunteers. Parkrun's South East Ambassador, Stuart Van Der Bliake is in continual training to work as a visual guide for visually impaired runners and walkers, and also trains others to become guides.
As part of the training, visually impaired runner Karen Kealy, from Carlow, ran the Wexford course and then took part in the training which teaches people how to work with the visually impaired person.
Mr Van Der Bliake said: 'Visually impaired people rely on sound, and listen to the directions from the guide so they can enjoy the social and health benefits of running. Exercise is very important for the physical and mental wellbeing of all participants and our guides can help everyone enjoy the 5K in a safe and supportive environment.'
Joan Ryan, the national trainer for the NCBI also assisted in the training programme.
Mr Van Der Bliake explained that Parkrun was trying to show that it was open to everyone.
He said there was very good interest in the training programme and Wexford now had about half a dozen people trained to guide people at various different paces. He said there would be continuous development of that training, remarking that there were great benefits for both the guides and the visually impaired runners.
Parkrun, he said, was also working with the Cottage Autism Network and Sports Active in Wexford County Council.